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“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”  They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen…” (Luke 24:30-35).

Only Dr. Luke records this post-resurrection event. Two downcast disciples of Jesus are leaving Jerusalem and returning to their home in Emmaus. They share with their unrecognized Lord how great their crucified Master was. Yet they could not veil the disappointment that their hopes that He was “the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21) had vaporized. “After all,” they said, “it has been 3 days since His death.” Jesus’ response was loving but stern: “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26). Then He patiently explained that these events were the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets and that Scripture had pointed to Him from the beginning (v. 27). And when they understood, they rushed back to Jerusalem with a renewed sense of enablement.

These followers of Christ were still living in the past, choosing to dwell upon Friday’s seemingly tragic events. They had been told that he was alive (v. 22-24) but, with their faith shattered and their heads staring down at the dirt road, they solemnly trudged home to their former life back in Emmaus. But they weren’t alone. Peter, along with some of the other disciples, had essentially done the same thing. Jesus had called them to be “fisher’s of men” but where did He find them after He had come victoriously from the grave? Fishing! For fish (see John 21:1-14)! Defeated by their failure to be faithful during Christ’s suffering and hopeless and helpless without the leadership of their Captain, they had returned to the same purposeless way of life they knew before they met Jesus. But upon seeing their risen Lord they made a mad dash to greet Him (John 21:7-8).

This season we celebrate Easter and Jesus’ expression of His continued presence with us, power in us, peace for us, and purpose through us that is clearly demonstrated by His resurrection. In the 40 days (Acts 1:3) before He ascended to the right hand of the Father He continually reminded His followers of those 4 things and made clear statements regarding each (see Matthew 28:16-20; Luke 24:36-49; John 21:15-19; Acts 1:1-11). All of this became a reality for His disciples as they waited in Jerusalem (the very place many had left following His crucifixion) for these promises to be fulfilled by the manifestation of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In other words, it was after Easter that the full impact of His resurrection was most realized in His followers and they, moving forward, led lives that demonstrated His continued presence, power, peace, and purpose. Just read the book of Acts for the dramatic aftermath.

My point? Let us not lose the inertia of our Easter worship and festivities. Many of us will be stirred by exhilarating music, emotional “Passion Plays,” and motivating sermons. But our experience of the profundity of His resurrection is not meant to end there. The influence of His resurrection is to be something that propels us all year around, day by day, moment by moment. Let us not, like these disciples, return to the routine of a former, spiritually trivial life, but let us be continually transformed by the “fellowship of His sufferings and the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:10). May His presence, power, peace and purpose in and through us not fade after the invigorating crescendo of our Easter activities and focus. Instead, may our hearts continue to “burn within us” with an all-consuming passion that can only come from the ongoing sufficiency that His resurrection guarantees.

Let Jesus’ truth resonate with us: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;  and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). Do we? Then let us be transported by the truth that His resurrection is to be experienced not just on a holiday but every day before and after. Let us not live like He is still dead. Let us not revert to the old passionless, mundane ways that we rose above during this sacred season. Let us magnify Him through His presence, power, peace, and purpose…even after Easter!

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them inthe name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). 

These passages are so familiar to most Christ-followers that we have become numb to their significance and relevance. So I’d like to visit these passages with the idea of showing how many (myself included) have become desensitized to Christ’s command to go to all the world. I think you will see along the way why so many have called our reaction to this mandate as “The Great Omission.” 

First, let’s see that this was a personal dictate. Jesus didn’t say, “they will go.” No, Jesus “came near” (HCSB) to them and said, “[You] go!” Can you envision the scene? He huddled with them to lay out them the game plan for the expansion of His church and kingdom. And it was a personal command. They, and us by extension, are summoned to go. This is not to overlook that we are called to go in community and as the church universal, but it’s so easy to just write a check to a local or foreign missions group (and I praise God for them) or consider the church where we give a portion of the money God has generously given us to be a “missions-minded” church. But this does not exempt any of us from personally going and making disciples. We must not let our giving to (or praying for) missions replace the individual “good news journey” that’s to be an integral part of our daily lifestyle (more on that later). 

Second, this command is to be done with His power. It is His authority that makes our going come alive. It is not our own power that we go with. As ambassadors of Christ we go with His Kingly approval and authority. We must not think that there is anything else but His boundless energy that brings life-changing transformation to those who hear His Word. Though often times weary and weak in our calling to go and tell and train, we must be dependant upon Him and rely on His limitless resources to empower our going and sharing. If it is from us or about us, it is ultimately destined to fail. 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 

Third, we see the purpose of our going. We are to make disciples not just “converts.” Our goal (as is His) is to see people radically transformed by the Gospel. This is not just about counting those that raise their hands during an invitation, pray a scripted prayer, are baptized, or become “church members.” This is about people fully embracing His calling to “count the cost” (Luke 14:28) and “take up their cross, deny themselves, and follow (absolutely surrender to) Jesus (Luke 9:23). This is where evangelism and discipleship must merge (as if they were ever designed by God to be different, segregated functions).

Which leads us to the fourth point – the practice that is part of making disciples. This practice is a lifestyle of obedience. Disciples, according to Jesus, are to observe all (not some) of His commands. They see Him not just as Savior but as Master and Lord of all aspects of their lives and being. Discipleship is not just intellectual assent to who Christ is but also capitulation to His Lordship and obedience to His commands. As John Calvin once said, “We are saved by faith alone but the faith that saves is never alone.” This, in a sense, is an extension of the 3rd point. But, given the cultural landscape (Watchman Nee described American Christianity as “three thousand miles wide but only one inch deep”) we can’t overemphasize that our call is to see people drawn to the light of Christ and live in it. And this synergistically leads to multiplication and exponential growth in going and making other disciples. 

…to be continued in the next post.

“And [the son] arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.…the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate…And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:20-22-24).

There is only one A&W root beer left in our refrigerator. After over a decade of a 12 pack being kept cool, I won’t be buying more anytime soon. I don’t drink root beer; my son does. But Samuel has moved away to graduate school, has his own apartment, and is looking for long-term employment. His frequent and treasured visits to the Wolfeden will be less common. Samuel is 23 and a man. He has now left home to make his mark in the world. He is moving forward to answer God’s call on his vocation, as he presently understands it. As we all know, this is sometimes difficult to determine due our sinfulness and human limitations. But he is trying, and he is seeking. God knows that it took me nearly 50 years to figure this out and still I sometimes wonder if I have.

As unwelcomed as this is to a parent, this is the way of life. I, too, left home for undergraduate studies and then, later, 7 hours away to seminary. Children grow up and move on. They find their way; they find their place. They discover, we earnestly pray, exactly where God wants them to be, doing precisely what He wants them to do. This is not an exact science and I pray forgiveness for any barriers that I have unwittingly created in Samuel’s pursuit of a life full of loving and serving his Savior. Mercifully, I’m confident that our God is big enough to overcome my poor choices and lack of wisdom. Parenting, as I have been consistently reminded, is not an exact science either, and is subject to the frailties and foibles of those who are blessed to parent.

Samuel isn’t going to a far country to sew his wild oats and waste his life – he’s only going 3 hours away to continue his studies at a Church of God university. He will carry on with his studies in psychology and today is his first day of classes. Why psychology? Maybe it’s to figure himself out or to understand and help others. Probably both. Maybe it’s to undo the ill-effects of my parenting. No matter the reason, he feels this is what he must do to grow up and move forward as an independent, responsible adult and a contributor to our culture and Christ’s kingdom. If, in the end, Samuel is pursuing his greatest purpose – to glorify God and enjoy Him forever – then he really isn’t leaving home at all but, instead, finding His God-ordained dwelling place. With that in mind, I wish Samuel our Lord’s best, fruit for his labor, and the joy of Jesus. It’s the least I could do after all the delight he has brought to me.

Don’t think for a second that he is a prodigal. Nothing could be further from the truth. I chose this passage because of the father’s reaction to His son’s return, not as a commentary on why Samuel left. It’s because, when he returns to visit, I will react in a similar fashion. No, there won’t be a splendid robe or a special ring and shoes. But a cow will have been sacrificed and the grill will be prepped for the finest steak his father can cook. There will be a celebration – probably muted by biblical standards, but a joyous event nonetheless. But there will be that root beer – the one that has remained in the fridge awaiting Samuel’s homecoming. And there will be another 12 pack already purchased, stored, and cool, in the hopes that he lingers for awhile and comes back again soon.

Samuel Wolfe, Rebekah and I, like the father in Jesus’ parable, longingly look forward to once again watching you drink that A&W, savoring a specially prepared ribeye, chatting about things both important and not, and enjoying the gladness that comes from you blessing us with your presence. We are so very, very proud of you! Godspeed!

*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Twenty-Two – First, Seek the Lord

“For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:32-34).

How will I afford new clothing, that next meal, the wine for my son’s wedding? Questions like these represented legitimate concerns faced by the crowd gathered to hear Christ’s sermon. While Jesus recognized that life brings challenges, He encouraged hearers to exchange their anxiety for faith in God’s provision. To let go of the need to secure their own tomorrow. To hand control over to God. Here, in the last three verses of Matthew six, Christ reiterates His earlier message and clarifies the essence of His kingdom.

Christ’s followers should sell out in the pursuit of His kingdom and His righteousness. Rather than wringing their hands in worry like pagans who live without the hope God provides, believers should trust that God’s in control: Tomorrow belongs in His hands. As people seek after the things of Jesus and faithfully live in the present with a hopeful eye on a glorious future, they discover peace and grow in the ability to help others. By regularly and seriously considering our ambitions and aspirations, we can gauge the depth of our relationship to King Jesus.

Within those who pursue Him, Christ places His kingdom (see Luke 17:21). In teaching hearers to “seek first his kingdom,” the Lord encouraged believers to seek after His rule in all aspects of their lives. Taking a good look at how we handle relationships, considering how we spend leisure time, appraising our approach to work, and assessing the value we place on His church reveals how completely we yield to Christ’s invasion of our hearts. True followers submit willingly and joyfully to His reign. They allow the pursuit of His honor and glory to alter their attitudes, actions, and activities. God uses our surrender to expand and enhance His kingdom. This differentiates believers from a lost and spiritually dead world (see Ephesians 2:1-6).

We must obsessively pursue Heavenly things and store up for ourselves eternal treasure by living through Jesus while faithfully acknowledging His kingdom in the present. Paul reiterates this principle when he tells the Colossian church, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above … not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4). Men and women who remember that life serves as a precursor to eternity with God are better positioned to most fully experience God in the here and now, to serve as ambassadors for His kingdom, and to accumulate eternal rewards.

Jesus calls us not to a balanced life, but to one completely imbalanced and weighted by Him. By placing an undivided focus on Christ we receive His power to live in such a way that the kingdom within us is most evident. This type of Godward fixation demonstrates a supernaturally powerful experience radically different than those who don’t know Christ and, thus, they are drawn to His beauty. This—not the accumulation of things or the fattening of our retirement accounts—summarizes the true purpose of life (see Luke 12:15).

To those who pursue God and wholeheartedly serve Him, Christ promises: “All these things will be given to you as well.” These “things” certainly refer to the necessities: food, clothing, and shelter (Matthew 6:25-31). I believe, however, that Christ also refers to more lasting blessings. Throughout the sermon His earnest followers find contentment in the knowledge that the kingdom of Heaven exists within them, that He provides divine comfort, that spiritual possession of the earth and divine satisfaction belong to them. Further, they enjoy God’s incomprehensible mercy, may see and know God, and they can live as God’s children. Nothing the world offers can touch the immeasurable value of these gifts of grace!

We begin to experience God’s blessings in the here and now as we learn to abide in Christ and to saturate our hearts in Him. Christ and all of His “unsearchable riches” come to those raised with Him; those whose lives are hidden in His (see Ephesians 3:8-12). Jesus is our power, hope, and purpose. When we seek His kingdom we receive the greatest treasures—relationship with Him now and the promise of eternity in His presence. Christ is our life. Our past, present, and future belong in His capable hands. 

Apply It.

The New Testament condemns “selfish ambition” on six occasions. Do a word search in The New International Version to study each passage. Then, take an honest inventory of your actions. Use two columns to list selfish things you do versus actions done for the kingdom of God. Sincerely ask God to reshape your priorities to better reflect Him as needed.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form –    

Amazon Kindle –

Barnes and Noble in book form –

Other eReader formats –

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:1-4). 

This is an actual offering by a widely known minister/ministry. Check it out: 

“You Must Recapture Your Dream” Pack 

For your generous gift of $1,000 or more! 

Description: The major assault of the devil is to cause you to become “visually impaired.” If you lose your God-given vision, your dream, you will stumble through life as your dream deteriorates. Is there hope? Can you recapture the dream? Yes you can! Find out how in this pointed message from (intentionally deleted). Discover what it takes to bring life back to your vision and what happens when you refuse to give up on your God-given dream! 

Now how does that strike you? For a moment I thought I was visually impaired as I read this advertisement. I just couldn’t believe my eyes. Rebekah’s comment was spot-on: “Don’t they know that you can read the Bible for free?” Several other (and somewhat satirical) questions pop into my small brain: 

  • Define what a “God-given dream” is? Tell me, how it is different than a worldly dream?
  • Would this dream look like the Prosperity Gospel’s definition of what God wants us to have – worldly success, health, wealth, and a trouble-free life? 
  • Are “God-given dreams” always this expensive to discover? 
  • Is the minster/ministry’s dream the one most likely to come true here? 
  • If you can purchase the discovery of your dream, can you have some indulgences too? 
  • How long do I have to wait on the “Snake Oil Pack?” 
  • Didn’t I once see this on an infomercial? Was it Tony Robbins or Joel Osteen? 
  • Are the lyrics to Aerosmith’s Dream On included? 
  • How does one put a price tag on this? Couldn’t it be $100 or $10,000? 
  • What would you get for $2000 – a dream twice the size of your God-given one? 
  • Would you be willing to send me $999 (I need to have a competitive price point) to tell you what you want to hear? If so, please leave a comment to this post indicating your desire to plant a “seed gift” and I’ll send you my ministry’s PO Box number (I don’t really have one since no one has determined this ministry worthy of a donation). Please make your checks payable to Linden Wolfe, c/o Captivated by Christ Ministries (In the name of full disclosure, your donation will NOT be tax-deductible). 

I know…silly me: If I’d only purchase this “Dream Pack” I’d probably discover the answers to my cynical questions. And my “God-given dream.” 

Don’t get me wrong, I believe God can give us dreams. I’m just not sure it should cost us “a Grover Cleveland” to find it. And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t endeavor to find God’s plan for our lives in the context of living out our calling in Christ Jesus. You see, more importantly, I believe God gives us a purpose. And that purpose is His purpose and it is designed to bring honor and glory to Himself. Just do a word-search in the New Testament on “dream(s)” and then do one on “purpose(s).” The latter will point us directly to God’s will and work and our surrender to it. And nowhere will you find a monetary value tied to the dreams or purpose God gives us. Concerning our purpose, this is one of my favorite passages: “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, NIV). 

So my encouragement to all of us is to take that extra $1000 and give it away in the name of Jesus. Not to some self-help guru but to a destitute unbeliever. Or to a disenfranchised someone who has never heard the true Good News explained. Or to a child in a foreign land that has no hope apart from Christ. Use the open door to share the Gospel with them while thoroughly explaining that the God-given purpose and calling we find in Christ is so much bigger than any earthly dream, treasure, or sum of money. And make sure you let them know that the offer of His grace and His calling is free to us. Because Jesus has already paid the price at Calvary.

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